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Workplace sexual harassment claims have spiked in the #MeToo era

Posted at 11:12 AM, Oct 04, 2018

The number of workplace sexual harassment claims filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has spiked in the year since the #MeToo movement took off.

Sexual harassment charges filed with the agency increased more than 12% in the year ending September 30, according to preliminary figures. The EEOC is in charge of enforcing civil rights laws in the workplace.

The agency said it filed 41 lawsuits that involved allegations of sexual harassment, a 50% increase from the previous year.

"I am so proud of the EEOC staff who stepped up to the heightened demand of the #MeToo movement to make clear that workplace harassment is not only unlawful, it is simply not acceptable," acting chair Victoria Lipnic said in a statement.

The #MeToo movement exploded after The New York Times and the New Yorker published allegations of rape, assault and other forms of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The original Times report was published one year ago Friday.

Since then, women around the world have come forward with accounts of sexual harassment by powerful men.

As workplace harassment dominated headlines, more people sought information and help from the EEOC. Hits on the sexual harassment page of the agency's website more than doubled this past year, the agency said.

Even so, the number of complaints filed to the EEOC is believed to vastly underestimate the scope of harassment in American workplaces.

As many as 70% of people who are harassed never file a complaint with their employer, according to a 2016 EEOC report.